If you haven’t been hiding under a rock for the last month, you probably know that Facebook has made another set of discussion-raising changes. The site’s design changes have sparked many an angry status update in the past, but users quickly acclimated to the Twitter-esque live feeds on their home pages and the new layouts of their profiles. But how easily will the new changes to users’ privacy settings be accepted? Will you choose to accept them, or will you join the countless users already flooding the site with suggestions and complaints? Her Campus is here to help you save face.
What has Facebook changed this time?
This month, the site launched a sleeker, more consolidated privacy page in response to its ever-expanding user base. “More than 350 million people around the world are using Facebook to share their lives online,” says Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. And with more and more adults joining the site’s regional networks, restricting your privacy to your city or county could open up your information to any stranger in your area code and beyond. Do you really want everyone in New York City to see your Spring Break pics?
“The plan we've come up with is to remove regional networks completely and create a simpler model for privacy control where you can set content to be available to only your friends, friends of your friends, or everyone,” Zuckerberg writes on Facebook’s blog. Instead of joining a regional network, you can now list your current city, which will be displayed in the “Basic Information” section of your profile. That way, you can still express pride for your hometown and let your friends find you without compromising your safety.
A later blog post by Ruchi Sanghvi, Facebook’s product manager for privacy, highlights more changes, including an updated Publisher tool – i.e., the place where you fill in your status. Pushing the Publisher’s new padlock icon releases a drop-down menu that allows you to choose who can see “what’s on your mind.” If you don’t care to share your every thought and action with the world, or even with that “friend” you pass in the hall every day, you don’t have to.
Preserving your privacy – in three easy steps.
So, how do you change your privacy settings, anyway? It’s as easy as 1-2-3.
- Read Facebook’s Privacy Announcement, a short message summarizing what has changed and why, available via your own Facebook account.
- Update your privacy settings for each field on your profile, choosing either the new settings Facebook recommends or your old settings. To view your old settings and make sure you still want to keep them, hover over the radio button.
- After you’ve saved your settings, Facebook will review your choices with you before allowing you to return to your homepage, safe and sound.
To make the update even more foolproof, Sanghvi has even posted a three-minute tutorial video on the Facebook blog to guide you effortlessly through the process.
How private is it really?
Be careful—there’s one sticky spot Facebook didn’t warn you about. You may be surprised to notice that you can now see strangers’ pictures, even if they aren’t your friends or members of your network. And Facebook was supposed to be more private than ever!
Let’s return to Step 2 of the privacy control procedure. For each profile field, Facebook gave you the choice between its new default settings and your old ones. In order to “make it easier for people to find and learn about you,” Facebook wants your family and relationships, work and education, posts, and “About Me” box to be visible to anyone who looks at your profile. Friends of friends now know your religious and political views and can see all the embarrassing photos of you that your friends have posted. Of course, if you chose to preserve your old settings, you have nothing to worry about; but in the rush to complete the process and get back to playing FarmVille, you might have taken Facebook’s suggestions without reading them carefully.
"These new "privacy" changes are clearly intended to push Facebook users to publicly share even more information than before," Kevin Bankston of the Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote on the company's blog in December. "Even worse, the changes will actually reduce the amount of control that users have over some of their personal data."
If you preserved your old privacy settings, people who search for you can only see your name, profile picture, gender, current city, networks, friend list, and pages.
Fortunately, the changes you just made are not set in stone, and you can heighten (or scale down) your privacy level at any time. Simply visit the “Privacy Settings” page, which can be found by hovering over “Settings” on the top menu. There, you’ll be able to control who sees each aspect of your profile, and even exclude yourself from searches. Though more and more strangers may be lurking around Facebook each day, you can always find a new way to hide.
“An Open Letter from Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg” –
posted Tuesday, December 1, 2009, at blog.facebook.com.
“New Tools to Control Your Experience” – posted by Ruchi Sanghvi on Wednesday, December 9, 2009, at blog.facebook.com.
"Facebook's New Privacy Changes: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly" by Kevin Bankston